Wild Gourd Farm

Organic Gardening in St. Louis City

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Our Digs

Our house is situated on about 1/3 of an acre, with a large double lot to the east and a smaller single lot on the west side of the house.

Here's our house!

Here’s our house! This is looking south, so the East double lot is on the left side, the West lot is on the right of the photo.

Some before photos of the West lot:

West lot, facing southwest

West lot, looking southwest

From the back of the West lot, looking North

From the back of the West lot, looking North over some weeds.

Back of the West lot, looking South to the alley

Back of the West lot, by the garage and shed, looking south to the alley. This is where we had planned to build a new chicken enclosure.

The first thing we did in our new yard? Start an orchard in the West lot. There was already a 3-4 year-old peach tree over there, and we wanted to add to it. We ordered the trees online soon after we moved in last September, but they weren’t delivered until November. So we planted our trees right before Thanksgiving 2013. Two plum, two cherry, three apple, and one peach tree to go along with the one already there.

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We worried that the trees wouldn’t make it through the worst winter we’d seen in a long time. Come spring, though, we started to see some signs of life.

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The peach tree we inherited.

The peach tree we inherited.

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We got enough peaches to eat fresh, share with friends and family, and make 3 pies. Not bad for our first year!

The second thing we had planned was to build a new chicken coop and enclosure. Sallie was nice enough to keep the chickens in her yard after we moved out. We wanted to build a new home for them but ran out of time before it got too cold and the ground froze. So we moved them into our yard using the same chain link pen and dog-house-turned-chicken-coop set up, seen wrapped in the green tarp in the photo below.

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Mother, Yolko, and Chica

 

Here's a view of the West lot from the front as of today.

Here’s a view of the West lot from the front as of today (our house is on the left). The trees up front are plum.

We tilled and replanted the old, overgrown garden plot with lettuce, salad mixes, Red Russian kale, lacinato kale, and romanesco.

We worked the soil and replanted the old, overgrown garden plot with lettuce, salad mixes, Red Russian kale, lacinato kale, and romanesco.

Surprise lillies next to the house

Surprise lilies next to the house.

We've also found several nice patches of medicinal, native yarrow growing wild in the yard, lucky us!

We’ve also found several nice patches of medicinal, native yarrow growing wild in the yard, lucky us! (Yes, Rosco loves to be in photos!)

 

Our plan for the rest of the yard: more food production. We’ve got big plans for the future, including a food forest, outdoor kitchen, and a water feature.

We leaned our mushroom logs against the North side of the garage and did get some shiitakes this spring.

We leaned our mushroom logs against the North side of the garage and got some shiitakes this spring. We also have lots of herbs in pots until we find the right spots for them.

Our future berry patch, housed in pots for now until we find the right spot!

Our future berry patch, also housed in pots for now until we find the right spot! Elderberry, raspberry, and blackberry.

We’re planning to till up and farm a large section of the east lot, but for now it’s mostly lawn. We got rid of the dead yews and started a small garden in the back for this year.

View of the East lot, with Maggie and her beloved frisbee

View of the East lot, with Maggie and her beloved frisbee.

Dead yews are gone! Garden and native perrenials in their place.

The new garden space in the back.

Tomatoes in the back.

We planted some of our extra tomato plants.

Black bean teepee trellis

Black bean teepee trellis

Black beans!

Black beans!

One of our wild gourds

A baby wild gourd

More wild gourds. It's been really interesting to see the fruits' differences in this second generation.

More wild gourds. It’s been really interesting to see the differences in this second generation. Some are much darker and even striped!

Sweet potato patch

Sweet potato patch.

We are also growing pumpkins, watermelon, zucchini, bush beans, pole beans, and basil in the back.

The rest of the East lot is mostly grass, though Eric did decide to build a brick pizza oven on a random brick pillar that was already in the middle of the yard.

New pizza oven in action

New pizza oven in action

We landscaped around the side and front of the house a little more formally, but didn’t lose our sights on edibility.

We transplanted feverfew, mint, oregano, asparagus, cala lilies that were already there, sage, thyme, and azaleas, as well as a really beautiful blue cedar tree.

We transplanted feverfew, mint, oregano, asparagus, sage, thyme, echinacea, azaleas, and a blue cedar tree (the calla lilies were already there).

There are two patches along the front steps down to the sidewalk that we dug up and replanted as well. We transplanted some yarrow we had grown at Amy’s last year, as well as some bibb lettuce, curly kale, and a few wild gourd plants. There was already a weird rose tree there.

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Wild gourd growing on our front fence.

Wild gourd growing on our front fence.

More wild gourds!

More wild gourds!

A volunteer pumpkin took over one of the little plots.  Again, lucky us!

A volunteer pumpkin took over one of the little plots. Again, lucky us!

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Making Up For Lost Blogging Time

We’ve been away from the blog for a while because things have been so busy with our house and gardens. Since buying our home last year, we’ve been focusing our efforts on the house and yard, and our garden at Amy’s place. We are no longer utilizing our former satellite gardens at Sunset Hills, Iowa Ave., Sallie’s side yard, and Lafayette Square. So here’s finally an update on the garden at Amy’s!

We got a later start than we would’ve liked this year due to a cool, rainy spring. Once it dried a bit, we were able to get our two plots re-tilled and planted quickly. In the future we’d love to rely less on tilling (or combine it with the use of a cover crop) but it was absolutely necessary this time to remove the grass and weeds that had already taken root. The irrigation system is still in place, but it’s been mild enough that we haven’t turned it on yet.

We’ve rotated our crops a bit from last year to promote soil fertility and reduce pests and disease. In the east plot, pictured below, we seeded beets, carrots, bush beans, and Peaches and Cream sweet corn, and transplanted some volunteer black seeded simpson lettuce, and broccoli and cabbage from Bowood Farm. There are also quite a few volunteer tomato, borage, celosia, marigold, and cleome plants from last year.

May

May 4th- lettuce, broccoli, and cabbage transplanted

Late May

May 25th- beets and carrots germinating in middle rows

June

June 1st- left to right: lettuce, broccoli, beets, carrots & herbs, purple cabbage

Juy

July 1st

July

July 1st- sweet corn in the back, broccoli, beets, carrots, and cabbage in front.

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We just ate the first of the sweet corn yesterday and it was delicious!

In the bigger, western plot at Amy’s we transplanted five rows of tomatoes, sweet and hot peppers, basil, a few of our wild gourd plants (second generation this year!), lacinato kale, sweet potato slips, and nasturtium. We seeded salad greens, bush beans, radishes, beets, spinach, and tronchuda kale. We got some really great harvests out of the spinach and radish row before they went to seed. We’ve since replanted the rows with more carrots and salad greens.

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May- Tomatoes, basil, and peppers transplanted on Mothers’ Day

Newly transplanted tomato

Newly transplanted tomato

June 1st

June 1st

June 1st- trellising the tomatoes with Amy

June 1st- trellising the tomatoes with Amy, sweet corn growing in foreground

We’re using the large tomato cages we made last year from cattle fencing for our tomatoes at the Sunset Hills garden. We didn’t have enough for all the tomato plants this year, so we’re also using the Florida weave method. We drove in stakes between every two or three tomato plants, then used tomato twine to wrap around the stakes along each row to support the plants from both sides. This method works best if you keep up with adding another line of twine as the plants grow.

Peppers in July

July 1st. Left to right: radishes going to seed, bush beans and wild gourd, hot peppers, sweet peppers, tomatoes

July 4th. Tomato plants.

July 4th.

July 10th. Lacinato kale and nasturtium, two rows seeded with carrots, beets and wild gourd, peppers, tomatoes

July 10th. Lacinato kale and nasturtium, two rows seeded with carrots, beets and wild gourd, peppers, tomatoes.

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Iowa Ave. Garden Update

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Sunflowers grow here every year- thanks, Dave!

This is our third season working on the Iowa Ave. garden, and it’s going well. Originally designed with raised beds, we’ve since tilled up larger sections to get more planting space and try to deal with the ever-invasive grass.

Newly tilled this year is the back section, which now boasts a dozen healthy tomato plants, lots of peppers, and a variety of herbs.

Newly tilled this year is the back section, which now boasts a dozen healthy tomato plants, lots of peppers, and a variety of herbs.

Tomatoes are ripening!

Ripening tomatoes

Basil

Basil

Parsley and nasturtium

Parsley and nasturtium

Popcorn is thriving in the tilled middle section of the garden.

Popcorn is thriving in the tilled middle section of the garden.

Also in the middle section, three varieties of beans, including bolita and black bean varieties good for dried beans.

Also in the middle section, three varieties of beans, including bolita and black beans.

We saved seeds from an unknown variety last year. Long and skinny with small striped beans, they're great as green beans when young. We're hoping they'll be good for dried beans.

We saved seeds from an unknown variety last year. Long and skinny with small striped beans, they’re great as green beans when young. We’re hoping they’ll be good for dried beans, too.

The teepee trellis sits in the southwest corner of the lot, which we dug out by hand. It's planted with more pole beans.

The teepee trellis sits in the southwest corner of the lot, which we dug out by hand. It’s planted with more pole beans.

Pole beans growing

Pole beans growing up the bamboo

The view from inside. Yes, there are beans all the way at the top, very much out of reach without a ladder!

The view from inside. Yes, there are beans all the way at the top, very much out of reach without a ladder!

Hops growing in the very corner

Hops growing in the corner

The raised beds have eggplant, edamame, cucumbers, carrots, garlic, beets, flowers, and lots of plants going to seed. Soon we’ll be replanting for fall!

As for the raised beds, here's some ginger in a new bed this year.

We have two new beds this year. This one was planted with ginger.

Horseradish in the other new bed, along with some mustard going to seed.

Horseradish in the other new bed, along with some mustard going to seed.

I do most of the harvesting on Fridays in preparation for the Cherokee Street International Farmers’ Market but we harvested some goodies today, too.

Lemon, Japanese, and pickling cucumbers

Lemon, Japanese, and pickling cucumbers

Mid-week tomato and bean harvest

Tomato and bean harvest

I also started to dig up some of Dave’s hardneck garlic we’d transplanted into one of the beds earlier in the spring. Temperatures are predicted to be much lower tomorrow and Thursday, so we’ll be back at it some more!

July at Amy’s

It’s July and all the gardens are in full swing! Here’s what’s going on at Amy’s place:

We got up on the garage roof to take some aerial photos today. This is the west side of the large garden.

We got up on the garage roof to take some aerial photos today. This is the west side of the large plot, which includes our spicy salad mix, cabbage and cauliflower, cucumbers, butternut squash, zucchini, sweet potatoes, banana squash, pumpkins, and melons.

The tomato/pepper plot to the east.

The tomato/pepper plot to the east.

We're trellising our tomatoes using the Florida weave this year- our first time using this method.  Using stakes every 2-3 plants, you wrap tomato twine around the plants as they grow. I like it so far, but you have to keep up with it!

We’re trellising our tomatoes using the Florida weave system this year- our first time using this method. Using stakes every 2-3 plants, you wrap tomato twine around the plants as they grow. I like it so far, but you have to keep up with it! This photo was taken 2 weeks ago; you wouldn’t believe the growth since then!

Speaking of tomatoes, here's our first ripe batch of Genovese tomatoes, one of our favorite heirlooms. They usually grow singly, but it sure is fun when they grow in big bunches like this one!

Speaking of tomatoes, our Genoveses are starting to ripen. They usually grow singly, but it sure is fun when they grow in big bunches like this one!

Our jalapeno pepper plants are producing prolifically this year! We picked over 100 peppers last week for the market.

Our jalapeno pepper plants are producing prolifically this year! We picked over 100 peppers last week for the market.

Bell peppers are getting there, too.

Bell peppers are getting there, too.

This is our wild gourd plant, propagated from seed from one of the dried gourds we found over the winter. Super excited for our namesake gourds!

This is our wild gourd plant, propagated from seed from one of the dried gourds we found over the winter. Super excited for our namesake gourds!

This is Eric's favorite flower, cleome. We like to interplant lots of flowers in our garden plots. Not only are they beautiful and make great cut flowers for bouquets, but they attract beneficial pollinators, too!

This is Eric’s favorite flower, cleome. We like to interplant lots of flowers in our garden plots- not only are they beautiful and make great cut flowers for bouquets, but they attract beneficial pollinators, too.

Here's another gourd growing in our garden- pumpkins. We selected varieties good for cooking and carving.

Meanwhile, in the plot to the west, we’ve got several varieties of pumpkins growing- good for cooking and carving!

Also lots of melons! We planted watermelons and cantaloupe this year.

Also lots of melons! Mostly watermelons but also some cantaloupe.

Melon vines in foreground, banana squash taking over the background.

Melon vines in foreground, followed by pumpkin, and banana squash taking over the background.

We've got two rows of zucchini, black beauty and a gray variety from Baker Creek. So far we've harvested ~25, with more maturing every day.

We’ve got two rows of zucchini, black beauty and a gray variety from Baker Creek. So far we’ve harvested ~25, with more maturing every day.

Our row of sweet potatoes is filling out nicely.

Our row of sweet potatoes is filling out nicely. We have more planted elsewhere, too.

As well as the butternut squash row. We planted these a little later than our other squash rows.  I've spotted a few baby squash starting.

And here’s the butternut squash row. We planted these a little later than our other squash rows, and there are already a few baby squash starting.

More updates to come!

What’s Growing On? Iowa Avenue Garden, Fall 2012

This year, with our expansion into Sunset Hills where the majority of our tomato crop was grown, we unfortunately ended up putting the Iowa Avenue (not Street, as we’ve been calling it!) garden on the back-burner. We built the Iowa Ave. garden two years ago, and it turned into our experimental and seed garden, whereas Sunset Hills became more of a market garden.  With the changing seasons and the tomatoes slowing down, we’ve been spending more time on Iowa Ave. First on the agenda- fighting the evil, invasive grass. Second, building fences around all our raised beds to keep out chickens and dogs. Third, planting cool-season seeds and transplants!

We seeded two different varieties of spinach on September 25. We took this photo today, a month later.

On the other half of the spinach bed we sowed a mix of spicy Asian greens from seeds we’d saved previously.

We love radishes, especially because they grow so quickly! This fall we’re growing icicle and French breakfast radishes. These are just babies, but they’ll be plump and ready to harvest in no time!

If you look closely you can see part of a row of carrot seedlings we sowed from seeds we’d saved. We’ll have to thin out some of the carrots, since they were planted close together due to the small size of the seed. Note: these were planted at the same time as the radishes.

This cilantro self-seeded from plants we grew in the spring. Cilantro is quick to bolt in the summer, so when it flowers and goes to seed we harvest some of the dried seeds for coriander seasoning, save some to plant later, and leave some on the plants to self-seed.

Our transplanted Red Russian kale is doing well.

Here remains the only sign of our failed potato tower experiment- a few potatoes left in the ground have started to sprout.

We can’t wait to dig up the sweet potato bed, coming soon!

From a distance, this looks like a tangled, weedy mess of stocky tomato plants. The grass was so thick in this area of the garden, and we didn’t have the resources to get it up, so we laid out a tarp, planted tomato plants in pots, and mulched around them. As we said, we like to experiment.

Up close, you can see this patch has been pretty successful, considering they lived in pots through the extreme summer heat and drought. This variety of cherry tomato has been very prolific, hardy, thick-skinned, and a hit at the market in combination with our sweet yellow cherry tomatoes.

Fall Garden Overhaul

The Iowa Street garden has plenty of life left after this brutal summer. This year our main harvests from this garden were cucumbers, heirloom tomatoes, cut flowers, garlic, herbs, beets, and onions. We’ve cleared out some of our beds to make room for cool season crops, and we’re looking forward to lots of fall harvests.

The amaranth and sweet potato bed held up well in the drought. The amaranth will be harvested when the heads dry out; we’ll dig up the sweet potatoes after the fall cold sweetens them up.

We found another watermelon growing outside of our keyhole garden- best surprise ever!

Also planted in the keyhole garden are a couple large stands of sunchokes, or Jerusalem artichokes, which we’ll harvest for their edible tubers.

Sunchokes are distantly related to sunflowers… so pretty.

We’ve also got a ton of tomatoes popping… ripening soon, if we’re lucky.

More tomatoes in the tomato bed.

Our two chard plants are still doing well. They’ve been cut back a bit to give us more growing space.

The rest of the garden is getting a fall makeover. We started seedlings indoors to transplant into some of our beds, other beds have been direct seeded.

Asian salad greens recently transplanted.

A whole bed of kale- most of it Red Russian- transplanted.

Tomatoes aren’t a cool season crop, but we still had some in pots that we’d started in the spring, so we figured we might as well plant them. We’re obviously not expecting much-if we get one green tomato from them, we’ll be happy. They’re sharing the bed with basil (also non-cool season), radicchio, and lettuce transplants.

We’re hoping to have another mild fall and winter, especially since we got a late start seeding for fall. From seed we’ve planted spinach, lettuce mix, carrots, beets, and radishes.

A Sad Mystery

We have some sad news to report. Fanny, our Jersey Giant hen, has passed. We’d had the ladies out free ranging the evening before, and all seemed well. The next morning, she was dead- no feathers or bloodshed in sight. We hadn’t noticed any signs of disease, but we’re closely monitoring Chica, Yolko, and Mother just in case.

In looking through the Backyard Chickens forum, it appears that mysterious chicken deaths are not uncommon. That doesn’t make it any easier to accept. Fanny was a wonderful bird and a great pet, the most curious and human-friendly of our flock, and, I must admit, my favorite. She will be missed.

Spring Chickens


Chica, our Polish hen, is the star of this photo update because she's the most photogenic (read: she's the most oblivious)!

Fanny, a Jersey Giant, lives up to her name and is always the first one to find food

Yolko the Ancona, Fanny the Jersey Giant, and Chica in the background

Chica's crest puts her at a disadvantage when it comes to nabbing treats we cast out for the ladies, she's basically half blind! But she's easy to catch and hand feed.

Lots of eggs in the nest boxes these days... we don't always collect them daily, but we think some of the ladies are laying more than once a day! They never really stopped laying this winter.

Edit: Mother Clucker is the shyest and most difficult to photograph, so she didn’t make her way into this post. She’s still with us!

The Craftiest Time of the Year

Eric’s family decided to give homemade gifts this year. We were all impressed with what we came up with and agreed that exchanging homemade gifts is more gratifying than the traditional consumerist approach.

Eric and I gave paintings, home brewed hard cider, and jewelry made from shells from a family vacation:

For Grandpa
  
For Cinda
For Amy & Cinda
In return, we received these wonderful gifts:  

Display trays made from records

"All purpose cups" from mason jars and candle sticks

A literal "book bag," made from a book

Hand made stationery with envelopes

Chalkboard wine glasses & cork board

Peace wreath made with sticks and twine

And a Mardi Gras wreath

Frugal Friday: Window frame = picture frame

This week I took a window sash we found in an alley and re-purposed it as a picture frame. I took the easy way out and just cut a piece of mat board down to size, glued photos on it, and stuck it to the back of the window frame. We thought about painting it and removing the hardware and all, but we decided we liked the idea of it still looking like a window.

Of course all of the photos are of the dogs!

There are a bunch of different ways to go about it. You could cut holes in the mat and mount the photos behind it for a more professional look; you can mount the mat and photos on the other side of the pane of glass to make it more of a shadow box; you could mount photos onto plexiglass instead of the mat and have a clear border; or you could just mount one large photo.